Monday, September 20, 2010

2-4-6-8, Why Can't You Enunciate?

Corey's Song of the Week for this week is not only one of the best-loved Jackson 5 album cuts, it is also one of the least understood. In spite of Michael's attempt to hyper-enunciate the lyrics, they are almost impossible to decipher -- until you figure out the extended Mother Goose/elementary school mixed metaphors that are used in it. Honestly, if Smokey ("I Second that Emotion") Robinson had written for the Jackson 5, he might have come up with songs like this.

I remember standing around the turntable with my friend Janet, playing this song over and over, trying to catch the lyrics. For a while, we were sure Michael's first line in the chorus was "This thing annoys me" -- and we couldn't have agreed more at that point.

It turns out we weren't the only ones. There are misheard lyrics to 2-4-6-8 all over the internet.

Most everyone gets the chorus right:

2-4-6-8, who do you appreciate?
Please say that boy is me
2-4-6-8, who do you appreciate
I'm the one who wants to be
Your baby, yeah.

But the first verse is tricky. Here's what the actual lyrics are:

I get up early to see you in the morning
But you just pass me by.
If I were Jack Horner, sitting in the corner
With you I'd share my pie.
I pass your homeroom, wish it were my own room
Every time I look inside.
I simply hope that some day you'll notice
The look here in my eye, oh!

Over at ZoneLyrics, they start off by admitting the first part is incomprehensible. They probably should have just left it at that.

[Incomprehensible] sitting in the corner with you I share my time
I past your homeroom wishing you were my own room
Every time I looked inside
I sit at home and someday you'll notice the look here in my eyes

Even the usually reliable Jackson5ABC site misses the Little Jack Horner reference:
Get up early to see you in the morning
But you just past me by
Havin a quarter sitting in the corner
With you I share my time
I past your homeroom wishing you were my own girl
Every time i look to see you
sit at home but someday you'll notice if you look into my eyes ohhh

I know my friend Sir Leventhol will be wondering how the Japanese transcribed the lyrics. The Japanese were famous for always including a handy lyrics sheet with each release. But they were equally famous for getting the lyrics just a little bit wrong. Their mistakes were always interesting, sometimes more interesting than the actual lyrics. They would hear, for example, "I'm crying outside heaven's door" in the song "One More Chance" as "I'm crying out, Sir Leventhol."

Well, Sir, you will be pleased to know that the Japanese got the Jack Horner reference. In fact, they nailed the first verse... until the last line. There "I simply hope that some day you'll notice" was heard as "I said to Hope that someday you notice." Hope? Who is Hope? A friend of Sir Leventhol?

Nearly everyone gets the spoken lyrics at the bridge:

I may be a little fellow
But my heart is as big as Texas
I have all the love a man can give
And maybe a little bit extra.

(I've always thought that last word was supposed to have been excess to rhyme with Texas, and I wonder if Michael was having another "look over your shoulders" moment when he recorded it.)

By the second verse, we're back in the weeds. It's too bad Little Jack Horner didn't send his friend Little Bo Peep out to help guide us through them. Here are the actual lyrics:

The best time of day for me is at recess
That's when you talk to me
I think I'm the boy you like the best
I want more than a friend to be.

Sing365 heard it this way:

The first time I wonder why you were in
But you said that you talked to me
I stick up for your mess
You mean more than a friend to me.

Most other lyrics sites heard the same thing. (There's a lot of copying going on with lyrics -- not everyone can be so far off in the same way!)

The Japanese, of course, heard it differently:

Every time you think of me you've got to reset
Which way you talk to me
I pick up the phone and say Miss
Want more than a friend to me.

Then Jermaine comes in, and everyone almost understands what he really says, which is this:

Ooh, he wants to be your fella
Just tryin' to tell ya
But you pay him no mind.
He's no Prince Charming
But still he keeps trying
And, girl, you're so unkind.

I never realized Prince Charming was such an obscure figure. On about half the lyrics sites, he's identified as Prince Charma and the other half as Price Charma. Oh, except for the Japanese, who hear "no Prince Charming" as "a hopeless charmer."

No matter how you hear it, you can't help but sing along because the tune is so catchy. It really is a hopeless charmer. And I think Hope would agree.


  1. Great post! Hmmm Price Charma?

  2. I love this song,,,I wish they would have performed 2-4-6-8 live in concert. They could have added a skit before going into the song the same way they did a skit before performing "Who's Lovin You"

  3. I used to be very depressed not understanding what Michael (or his brothers) were singing in early J5 songs, until the moment I had this american friend who said she didn't either, that really was a liberation, how could I, then, understand everything, being a non-english native speaker, if native ones couldn't?
    From the moment when I realised that, I felt much more relieved and kept on singing along even if I didn't know what I was actually saying. *winks*
    Excellent blog post (as always).

  4. Actually, non-native English speakers usually do better with the lyrics than native English speakers. Michael was especially hard to understand in the early years when he sang up-tempo songs.

  5. I still hear "I simply hope that some day you'll notice the look here in my eye, oh!" as " I sit here hoping some day you notice the look here in my eyes, oh!"

    Jermaine does sing "Charming" in a way that could be heard as charmer as well, at least to my ears anyway lol!

  6. Thatliqkid: I'll double-check the lyrics in the "ABC" music book. You may be right.

  7. UPDATE: In the ABC music book, the lyric is written as "I git to hopin' some day you'll notice the look here in my eye." (spelled "git")

  8. LOL! Ok I'm amused by the "git" especially since it's a sort of insult over here in the UK.

  9. I misheard some of the Jackson 5 song lyrics for swear words. I guess I thought since the J5ive were so cool, their mmom and Motown would let do anything.

    HEY!! The word verification for this post was: "clerest" !!
    -Sir Lev